Digital Billboards: Durham Council Unanimously Rejects

Big win!

Here's the news, via Bull City Rising:
City Council was pressing well into the 11 o'clock hour last night by the time the procedural event happened: City Councilman Mike Woodard made the motion for a vote on the billboard industry's rezoning proposal, while Cora Cole McFadden seconded the item.

By this point, the outcome was clear -- enough Council members had signalled during discussion that they'd oppose the measure to make its failure a foregone conclusion. The only question was the margin of victory/loss, depending on your point of view.

Mayor Bill Bell opened the vote, and all eyes turned to the big-screen TVs mounted on the wall. A sea of reds, red for "Nay" -- save for one green mark next to Farad Ali's name.

"Uhhhh... uhhhh..." Ali stammered, clearly flustered at a mis-vote. To much laughter, Bell reminded Ali that he'd opened the vote, but hadn't closed it. Quickly, Ali's green box flipped to red.

Half the audience erupted in anticipated cheers; the other, stood silently and smoothed out their sports coats and dresses in preparation for a grim walk out of the chambers.

To organizers of the billboard measure's opposition, the outcome was expected coming into the night, if their assurances from the close-held lobbying of Council members held. But it wasn't clear until the very last whether it'd be unanimous or not.

That unanimity? It came down to a variety of factors, including the overwhelming differential in emails and letters from citizens; concerns over job and tax numbers; concerns over reopening the door on a legal matter long-fought with a seven-figure litigation bill by the City; and the surprise presence of an influential speaker for the opposition.

Next up:  the issue moves to the Durham County Commissioners, who control signage rules outside the city limit.

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